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Group ugly picture: Theophrastus and his “ethical group portrait”

  Theophrastus (Theophrastus, about 370 BC-about 285 BC, also translated “Theophrastus” and “Diophrastus”) was born on the island of Lesbos in Greece (that is, Mitty Irethos of the Isle of Lini, the son of Merantes the Fuller. As an outstanding disciple of Aristotle, Aristotle commented on him and said: “The understanding is extremely high and the most diligent.” He is diligent in learning and eloquent, so he is specially named “Theophrastus” (Greek, that is, a pious and godly speaker).
  In 323 BC, Aristotle appointed Theophrastus as the successor of the Peripatetic School, donated his manuscript to him, and entrusted his son Nicomacus to him. Since then, Theophrastus has been in charge of the academy for 35 years. “He was so highly praised in Athens that Agnonides was almost punished when he accused him of impiety.” After relaxing from his hard academic work, Theophras Toth died at the age of 85.
  Theophrastus had a wide range of academic interests throughout his life and explored various fields, leaving voluminous articles. From physics to botany, zoology, and physiology, from ethics to political science, metaphysics, from logic to rhetoric, poetics, and pedagogy, there are so many of them, but most of them have been handed down to the present. His two surviving botanical works, “On Botanical Studies” (ten volumes) and “The Cause of Plants” (eight volumes), had an important influence on medieval science. His existing relatively complete works, such as “Ethical Group Portrait” (one volume), “On Sensation” (one volume), “On Minerals” (two volumes) and other remnants of physics and metaphysics are all written in Greek. “Ethical Group Portrait” is one of the few works of Theophrastus whose whole picture can still be glimpsed so far.
  The title of “Group Portraits of Ethics” is “ΧАPAΑKTHPΕΣ” in Greek, and the modern English translation is usually “CHARACTERS”, but this English translation is not very accurate. The semantics of “characters” in modern English is more consistent with the semantics of “ηθο?” in Greek, and it has meanings such as “personality”, “temperament”, “character” and “national spirit”. The Greek word “ΧАPAKTHPΕΣ” originally meant “to imprint on a coin”, and later extended to “a typeface” and “a rhetorical analysis feature or style”. “Ming Zhe Yan Xing Lu” gives the title of this book: ηθικοι χαρακτηρε? (Character Traits), literally translated as “various character traits”, free translated as “Ethical Group Portraits”.
  ”Ethical Group Portraits” lists 30 types of character types, namely hypocrisy, flattery, empty talk, vulgarity, flattery, shameless, gossip, rumour-making, free-for-all, stingy, annoying, inappropriate, hypocritical, insensitive, blunt, superstitious, Picky, Suspicious, Poor, Crappy, Petty, Petty, Boastful, Arrogant, Cowardly, Authoritarian, Rejuvenating, Slandering, Abettor, Miser. Compared with Aristotle’s ethics discussion on character, which mainly discusses the middle character, and also discusses the two characters of excess and deficiency, Theophrastus’s “Ethical Group” only discusses the defective character, It greatly enriches the quantitative regulations on the denotation of defective characters, and at the same time deepens the connotations of defective characters to varying degrees.
  Take a look at the “coward” in Theophrastus’ “Ethical Group Portrait”:
  a coward is such a person: sailing on the sea, seeing the towering cliffs in the distance, he shouted: “The pirate ship is coming!”
  When a wave came, he hurriedly asked the people on the deck: “Is there anyone who hasn’t prayed to God?” As the helmsman, he was the first to come out, eager to ask the people on board if he was late, and what heaven looks like . Set sail, he told the people next to him, the worry came from some recent dreams. He hurriedly took off his coat and handed it to the slave, ready to jump into the sea at any time. After a while, he begged the captain again: “Please come to the shore quickly!” On the battlefield, he called the people around him to surround him closely, approach him for investigation, and whispered to them: “Our task is to distinguish who is the enemy! There was a lot of noise, and someone in front of the team suddenly fell down. He hurriedly told the people around him that he forgot to bring his sword when he came out in a hurry, and ran back to the military tent without finishing his sentence. Gathering his mind, he asked his followers to scout the enemy’s position. Then, he hid the sword under the pillow, but pretended not to find it, and spent time and effort to find it in the military tent. Peeping out of the tent, he saw that one of his friends was wounded. He flew to his friend and praised him for his bravery. Help up a friend and help him into the tent. While asking about his health, he bandaged his wound and blew away the buzzing flies on the wound.
  In short, he took the initiative to do everything except killing the enemy. The trumpeter sounded the bugle according to the military regulations, and he stood in front of the military tent and cursed: “Go to hell! This endless sound of the trumpet will not make people sleep well!” The blood that came out dipped on his face. At the end of the battle, his comrades gathered around him. He looked solemn, as if he was in danger just now, and said, “I saved a comrade in arms.” He led the soldiers of his tribe into the tent to see the wounded soldier, and he told them that he was alone. He helped the wounded soldier to the military tent with his hands.
  Theophrastus’ description of the opposite of “courage” – “cowardice” is mainly presented from two basic scenes: one is sailing activities, and the other is military battles. The latter, in particular, accounts for three quarters of the entire description. The choice of military combat as the main scene to describe “cowardice” is no accident. On the one hand, the Greeks regarded heroism in war as a primary virtue. This can be seen from the direct derivation of the Greek word “virtue” (aretee) from Arees. On the other hand, Aristotle also highly affirmed bravery in battle. Therefore, Theophrastus put the scene of “cowardice” in the battle, which echoes these two aspects. Carefully observing this basic scene, we find that it includes three processes before the battle, during the battle, and after the battle. This coward is timid and anxious before the battle, timid and opportunistic in the battle, and pretends to be calm and hypocritical after the war. His feelings are hilarious. We can notice that many details of words and deeds here are all presented naturally, fresh and sensible, and there is very little analysis and active intervention by the author.
  The style of Theophrastus’s Ethical Group is closely related to its adaptation to the context, because it directly serves the large-scale public lectures in the academy (“there are about 2,000 students who went to his school to listen to his lectures”), so how The close combination of knowledge dissemination, ethical education and entertainment interests is undoubtedly the key to the success of a speech. On this issue, Theophrastus has a clear understanding. He said: “If a writer wants to recite what he has created, he must make revisions. The young people of this generation cannot tolerate blindly delaying and ignoring.” Therefore, he firmly opposes “pretending to be pedantic” in lectures. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand that “Portrait of Ethics” abandons the argumentative rhetoric commonly used by philosophers at that time, and uses vivid and vivid colloquial narratives and descriptions to present various flawed character traits.
  In “Ethical Group Portraits”, there is not a single model character in line with the middle way advocated by Aristotle’s ethics. On the contrary, 30 characters with defective personalities are similar to the comic characters in Aristotle’s “Poetics”. requirements are consistent. Aristotle said: “Comedy is an imitation of bad people. However, ‘bad’ does not refer to all evil, but to ugliness. One of them is funny.” The “greedy” series, the “stupid” series, the “talkative” series, the “lying” series, the “flattering” series, and the “bad temper” series in “Ethical Group Portraits” vividly reflect this kind of “badness”. The contradictions and conflicts set in this “badness” highlight the distinct comedy. Try the “Greedy” series in “Ethical Group Portrait”:

  Let’s first look at free eaters:
  free eaters are people who first make a promise to someone to keep a secret for that person, but as soon as they go out, they go back and ask that person to lend him a loan. . After sacrificing to the gods, he marinated and preserved the meat, and then went to other people’s homes to eat the meat. He asked his own slaves to come along, and during the meal he pinched the meat and broke the bread for the slaves, and yelled, “Enjoy yourself, Tibers,” for everyone at the dinner party to hear. To buy meat, he always reminded the butcher to give him the best deal possible. Standing in front of the scales and watching the butcher cut the meat, he would nonchalantly pick up some pieces of meat into his basket, or he would just pick up a bone for soup as if no one else was there. , Laughing and slipping away as if flying.
  Or the miser:
  a miser is a person who promises to pay the landlord half of the rent every month. When dining, he has to carefully count how many people there are, how many glasses of wine he drank, and how many glasses he drank, and he will never share a penny for others. The first cup of sacrificial wine was offered to Artemis, who always kept it much less than the others on the table. If anyone wanted to bargain with him and sell him something, he would keep shouting expensive and reject that person face to face. If a servant accidentally broke a clay pot or dish, he would definitely deduct it from his daily ration. If his wife rolled down a three-cent coin, he would jump up and down, rummage through boxes, and search every inch of the house. If he sells something, he will definitely buy it at a fixed price, and the buyer will never ask for a bargain. It is impossible for others to eat half of the figs in one’s own garden. Walking through his territory, picking up even ripe olives or dates, that’s no problem! Checking whether the title seal is intact is his daily work. He was used to late fees and compound interest. To host a banquet for the electors of the precinct, he must cut the meat into small pieces early. When shopping, he often returns empty-handed. Salt, wicks, dill, oregano, garlands, sacrificial cakes, little coins that my wife wants to lend, but he absolutely forbids them! He insisted that over the years, little will add up! All in all, a miser likes a moldy money box and rusty keys. … Putting on his shoes in the middle of the night, he insisted to the cleaners that his cloak was already full of dust, and that if he put on his shoes, he would not get dirty so quickly.
  Finally, look at Miser:
  A miser is a man who gives a feast and never gives enough bread. For tenants from the country, he always asked them to lend him money. When paying dividends, he insisted on giving the issuer double dividends, which he said was only fair. However, he soon took the issuer’s title to himself. When he sells wine, he must mix it with water before buying it for his friends. When the theater manager waives his own tickets, he must take all his children with him. To travel abroad at public expense, he kept at home the money he received, but took out loans from his fellow envoys. He himself, however, loaned more to his entourage, but he gave his entourage the least amount of money each time he paid his wages. He eagerly took his share from the gifts given to the envoys by foreign merchants and sold them early. In the bathhouse, he scrubbed himself, and yelled at the young scrubber: “Silly boy, the olive oil in your place is going to go bad and stink!” The slave found coins on the road, and he was always used to sharing a share with the slave , muttering a proverb: “Hermes is biased.” The cloak was sent out for washing, and he immediately borrowed one from an acquaintance. Acquaintances came to the door. The following situations are also common: he personally rations the supply of daily necessities to his own household staff, and the scales are based on the Phydonian standard, with forging marks on the bottom, which is extremely strict in measurement. He secretly traded with friends, who felt that he made the decision on the spur of the moment, but once he got it, he could immediately resell it at a high price.
  According to Aristotelian ethics, miserliness can take different forms. Among them, the two basic ways are: either insufficient in giving, or excessive in obtaining. The “free eaters” are mainly over-obtained, the “miser” are mainly under-given, and the “greedy slaves” are either “under-given” or “over-obtained”. have reached an inexhaustible level. “Miser” gives too little, but is not so greedy and demanding of other people’s property. Regarding these two types of characters, Aristotle said: “Some people seem to be, at least they say they are, they keep their money, so that they will not be forced to do something shameful one day. For such people They may be called stingers and such names, because they give too little, or nothing at all. Some people are afraid of touching other people’s things, just as if they take other people’s things, it is inevitable that others will not take theirs. So also Just don’t take anything and don’t give anything.” Although “free eaters” and “greedy misers” are also miserly, because they get things from where they shouldn’t be, they are less important than “stingers”. The behavior is more greedy, more shameless and base.
  The above descriptions of personality types are rich in comedy, mainly from the following three levels: First, the exaggerated words and deeds of the characters are in sharp contrast with social norms and common sense. The three types of people compare pennies and bahts with property, which is beyond social norms and common sense. “Free eaters” buy meat, act recklessly, look at no one, and are not ashamed of their actions, but take pride in them; Second, the words and deeds of hypocritical characters. The “free eater” rewards his slaves with other people’s food and drink to show off his generosity; the “miser” is so good at acting that people always feel that he made impulsive decisions in transactions. Third, the psychological contradictions of the characters. The “greedy slaves” and the slaves who found the money shared the ill-gotten gains. They didn’t have much joy. Instead, they resented why they didn’t pick up the money by themselves. The contradiction and twisted psychology can be seen.
  As a philosophical work, Theophrastus’ Ethical Group is quite different from his contemporaries in terms of purpose and style. In terms of the subject matter, although many scholars in later generations put forward different opinions, such as the theory of pure entertainment, the theory of painting portraits for painters, the theory of rhetorical education, and the theory of speeches, etc., through the above analysis, we can still gain insight into that Theophrastus The primary purpose of “Group Portraits of Ethics” is to inherit and carry forward the essence of his teacher’s ethical thoughts – to achieve the middle way of virtue. However, in terms of thinking, Theophrastus adopted the strategy of rectifying deviations (30 kinds of defective personalities are presented one by one, correcting ethics and rectifying world customs), which enriched and deepened his teacher’s discussion of defective personalities, and laid a solid foundation for future generations. Man provides the entrance and path to reflect on the flawed character, which is different from that discussed by Aristotle. In terms of stylistic style, Theophrastus did not adopt the method of analysis and induction, but instead used a rhetorical method that first briefly defined each character trait, and then described his words, deeds, and demeanor in detail, and integrated ethical education with rhetorical skills. As a whole, it shows a unique charm of speech, which is also an important reason why it can be spread and preserved.
  The corridor of characters in “Portrait of Ethics” is not dimmed by the exposure of “ugliness”, on the contrary, it becomes more and more radiant with the passage of time, inspiring many latecomers. Not to mention the direct inheritance of ancient Greek and Roman playwrights such as Menander, Plautus, Terrence, Lucian, and Juvenals, that is, in the 17th and 18th centuries, from Overbury, Huo In the “character-writing” style of a group of essayists represented by Leo, Breton, and Bruyer, we can still clearly see its brilliance. The “Ethical Group Portrait” by Theophrastus is like a mirror hanging high in the universe, making people of all ages laugh at others and at the same time start asking themselves, and gain the awakening of self-consciousness in self-deprecating. Ever since, sadness and joy, love and hate, crying and laughing, all kinds of feelings came to my heart…

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